FundRaiser Blog

The FundRaiser Software Blog is an excellent resource for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about fundraising, donor management, membership management, and much more.

The Season for Thanks - a note from our CEO

As the weather turns cooler and the leaves begin to drop, I always try to take some time off from the constant stream of news and information that is constantly coming at me, and spend some time reflecting on the things that I'm truly thankful for. Sometimes, especially given the current state of affairs this season, this can feel a lot like... exercise. What if I miss something? What if everything changes when I'm not paying attention? What if, what if, what if?

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), this has never actually happened. Indeed, the world always continues to spin, news always continues to happen, and nothing major seems to change overnight. Apparently, my inattention to the news has zero effect on the bigger picture, what a relief! With that in mind, I chose to dedicate my mental energy in November and December to gratitude. The first week was mostly a detox; it is surprisingly difficult to avoid clicking those juicy headlines, or opening my News app for a quick update! After the first week, things began to normalize and I could focus more on my actual intention of feeling grateful. I decided to make a list of a few the things that I'm most thankful for to share with the world (the FundRaiser blog reading world, that is). Without further ado, here's a very partial list in no particular order of the things I am grateful for every single day.

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Can FundRaiser Track Volunteers?


Many organizations separate volunteer management from donor management, which means that often two separate systems are involved. Volunteer Coordinators often rely on spreadsheets or personalized databases to track who is actively volunteering, when they work, scheduling, and even tracking availability, skills, or work preferences. Grouping these volunteers into teams or crews becomes problematic, because it is often a manual process. Since many volunteers also financially support an organization, wouldn’t it make sense to have them both in the same database?

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The Power of Volunteer Reports


When it comes to keeping track of your volunteers there are several important pieces of information it’s helpful to know at a glance. Who are your volunteers? When did they work? How many hours your volunteers have worked and how much have they saved your organization over the course of a year?

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Three Key Lessons I Learned About Volunteering When Disaster Struck

Three Key Lessons I Learned About Volunteering When Disaster Struck

Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks, part 2

I usually report about nonprofit activity from the sidelines, but earlier this month massive flooding hit the area where I live. Over a period of 2 weeks, I experienced what it is like to live in a community affected by out-of-control weather.  Due to the efforts of compassionate and resourceful people in my community, a relief effort began immediately. I was fortunate to experience only minor direct effects from the flooding and so was free to volunteer. Now, three weeks later, I've learned many precious lessons about the blessings offered by rolling up your sleeves to volunteer where you can. I know that many of our FundRaiser customers are the front line in making this possible for people all over the world. Here are some key experiences things I learned that I'm grateful for: 

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Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks

Helping with Disaster Recovery in the Southern Ozarks

The water has swept on from the floods that raged through this region less than 2 weeks ago. It took with it all that it had the power to carry away. It left behind not just confusion and debris, but also an opportunity for communities to rise higher than the water ever did, and they are doing so. All members of the FundRaiser staff were touched directly by the impact of the floods which spread over the entire region where the FundRaiser office is located. Each responded with energy and courage as matched their situation, and all have been left with a deeper understanding for customers involved in disaster relief.  

Tamara Lovan of Technical Support went right to work volunteering. "Heading to Carmichael Field to assist with sorting flood debris starting at noon. This evening we will be helping gather donations at the Civic Center," she wrote us after being one of the first to track down where the volunteers were gathering. 

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Know Your Organization, part 3

Know Your Organization, part 3
Why Do You Need To Raise Money?

How your organization raises and spends money is knowledge a successful fund-raiser must also have at his or her fingertips. You need to know and understand your organization’s budget so that you can delineate the cost of operation and how the money to cover that cost is to be generated. Nearly all non-profits are, by their nature, limited in their capacity to increase earned revenues, and many are unable to produce any earned income because they serve groups that cannot afford to pay.

The inability to produce enough earned income to cover the cost of doing business is why non-profit organizations must be fund-raisers. However, understanding your organization’s capacity to produce earned income, knowing where such income comes or could come from, and maximizing it, are essential to developing a successful fund-raising campaign. If your prospective donors believe you could be producing more earned income, they will be far less likely to give of their limited philanthropic resources.

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Starting a Membership Program

Starting a Membership Program

Dear Kim,

I am the director of a very small nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to adoptive families. We are considering starting a membership program. I really don’t know where to start. Levels? Benefits? Any suggestions?

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How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 2

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 2
The Development Committee

The development committee has basic responsibility for overseeing and advising on the organization’s fund-raising activities. Its main duties are to:

    Set policies, priorities, and goals for fund-raising programs for the current fiscal year.    Review the ongoing performance of each campaign.    Review campaign achievement versus its objectives.    Identify and rate all major prospects for support.    Recruit key volunteer leadership and solicitors for the organization’s fund-raising campaigns.

Chairs of development committees, like development directors, must resolve the various contributed income needs of the organization without exhausting its base of support. The best development committee chairpersons are able to see the job in its entirety. They have broad vision. They don’t fall in love with one fund-raising idea, campaign, or concept at the expense of the overall development effort.My preferred development committee chairperson is a general managerial type with a strong marketing background. Ideally, this chairperson is something of an alter ego of the development director. I have been my most successful when my development chairpersons and I shared the same fund-raising vision. In a sense, the best development chairperson is a leader whom a competent development director is able to lead. The development chairperson has clout within the community that the development director is unlikely to possess, while the latter has fund-raising knowledge that is probably outside of the development chairperson’s purview. The partnership between the development chairperson and the development director works best when the professional develops the ideas and then gains the agreement of the volunteer leader, who uses his or her clout to get cooperation from the board and other volunteer campaign leaders.

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Tracking Volunteer Information In FundRaiser

Tracking Volunteer Information In FundRaiser

The Volunteers module in FundRaiser Select, and included in Professional, allows your organization to track much more than the names of your volunteers. With the ability to set up projects and teams, you can create work schedules and get detailed information about the work your volunteers accomplish.

The Volunteers module comes built into FundRaiser Professional; it’s an add on for FundRaiser Select. Within this module is the ability to track as little information (Volunteer names and contact information, for example) or as much as you need. When looking at big projects, such as a group for outreach or a specific event, you may want to establish a team or a project. This is easy to do within the module, and it allows you to group various volunteers together and track their hours.

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How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 1

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fundraising Team, part 1

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a development operation, and trustees are the most important volunteers of all. The trustees approve an organization’s budget and they must accept personal responsibility for raising called-for contributed income. They are expected to set the pace in giving, recruiting other volunteers, and soliciting major donors.

Too often I have been engaged as a consultant only to have the executive director of the organization or chair of the board of trustees tell me, “Our board doesn’t raise money. You’ll have to look elsewhere for fund-raising leadership.” That’s when I tell them they have to change the makeup of the board. A board must include individuals capable of leading a major fund-raising campaign. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead. There is no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else's responsibility.

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The Life Cycle of Special Events

The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers

Dear Kim, We are a 50-year-old social service agency and we have done a gala wine tasting event for the past 20 years. For many years, it was really fun and was the place to “see and be seen” in our community. About 300 people always came and we netted more every year. Our highest net was $75,000. We had a strong volunteer group who did most of the work and a list of sponsors who said yes almost without being asked. But in the last 5-7 years, several things have happened which have depressed our income and the fun of the event, and almost all of them have to do with aging. Our main volunteers retired and many of the regular attenders started saying they don’t like to go out at night, or their doctor has said they can’t drink wine or they can’t hear and the event is unpleasant for that reason. Needless to say, some have died. Last year, staff did most of the work on the event and we netted about $25,000. About 200 people came but that’s because we let staff invite five friends for free so we only had 120ish paying customers.  

My question is this: is the event worth it? Should we change it up entirely? People have a lot of loyalty to this event but it seems to be slowly dying.

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Launching a Membership Campaign

Those who can, do. Those who can do more, Volunteer.

Once you have established the basics of your campaign, you'll need to develop a plan for attracting members, (personal solicitations, direct mail, events, etc.). You'll also need to develop and produce the materials needed to support your plan (Case for support, brochures, letters, event and meeting invitations, instructions, PR material, etc., as well as to provide necessary campaign information and related materials for the volunteer campaign team of leadership and solicitors. (Such working examples are often easily obtained from other organizations).

Recruiting Your Solicitation Team

Job #1 is the identification and recruitment of a volunteer leader for the membership campaign. If no such candidate emerges from the board, seek a strong supporter from the business community—preferably someone with sales and marketing skills—and influence.

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Old Time Music Festival Attracts Enthusiastic Support

West Plains Square with people attending the Old Time Music Festival
Old Time Ozark Heritage Festival logo

Crowds gather for the Old Time Music Festival in the West Plains Court House Square. The FundRaiser office is also located in a loft on the West Plains Square.

West Plains, Missouri is buzzing this week, in preparation for the  Old Time Music Ozark Heritage Festival. It's pretty near impossible to live here and not get excited about it. West Plains is also the home of FundRaiser Software.

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Communication doesn't have to be a ticklish subject

In a recent blog here by Kim Klein, follow-up was stressed as an important element in asking people to volunteer their help.  It's as true in fundraising as in any other aspect of volunteerism (or life itself, for that matter) that communication is critical in fostering a strong, respectful, and meaningful relationship.  So use what FundRaiser provides to keep abreast of what's happening with your individual requests of volunteers, and be prepared to communicate often and openly.  Here are a couple of features that I've talked about in the past, that can be very helpful in accomplishing your goals:

1.  Tickles.  Use them.  They are nothing but date-sensitive reminders that attach directly to a name record.  If you've ever ordered something from an online company or, perhaps less likely, a print catalog, you've probably had some way to follow up on that order: email, shipment tracking, etc.  Tickles can help you keep track of your outstanding requests of people, with "DO" dates set to remind you of when you need to follow up on those requests.  It only takes a minute to enter a Tickle, and it can save you a lot of grief due to miscommunications in the long run.  

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Case study: How one volunteer's excellent data entry routine helped turn around a fundraising downslide


Menaul School has turned its fundraising downslide around. They've worked as a team to do it, combining in-person fundraising with strategic changes to what they record in their donor database and backed up by meticulous data entry. Each of these jobs is accomplished primarily by a different person, who excels at it. The data entry work is entrusted to a special volunteer.

Through steadfast attention to detail, volunteer Jim Hodges makes sure that correspondence goes out in a timely fashion and accurate data is in place when reports are needed for evaluation and planning.

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5 Ways to Appreciate your Volunteers all year round with FundRaiser

1. Utilize your volunteers fully through better recordkeeping

With FundRaiser's Volunteer module (available in Select, standard in Professional), you can better track several aspects of your volunteer base, which will allow you to better utilize their talents.My wife, Nanette, volunteers as a "site steward" for a local non-profit that visits archeological sites in the area and records new disturbances from pot hunters, among other things.  She is quite passionate about her involvement, but, at first, after having taken some initial training, it seemed she was on her own to figure out what she should be doing, and where, and with whom, and when, and on and on.  Later she discovered she was not alone, and that there were other volunteers who had languished with no direction provided by the organizers, and no real records of who was assigned to what regions.  So she set out to correct some of that by organizing some of the information available.  After all, volunteers do so because they want to help, not because they want to be called "volunteer".

2. Show appreciation through clear and frequent communication

Once you have a volunteer, make certain you develop that relationship in a positive way, by, first of all, thanking them for taking the time and effort to volunteer, and, secondly, to thank them every time they volunteer their time to your cause.  

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Go With the Flow

oak leafJust when I was sure July was coming in May this year, we had some relief. The last couple of days have provided us with stormy mornings and sparkling, sunny afternoons. It has been lovely to lie snug in my warm bed, listening to grumbling thunder and feeling the sweet-scented breeze slipping past my cheek in a cool caress. The normal riot of bird sounds was replaced by the quiet patter and muffled dripping of rain.

Despite the fact that I will surely have to mow my lawn this weekend, I was very glad to see the rain. Everything was so very dry! I ached for my trees, knowing that even their mighty roots couldn’t pull moisture from the ground that wasn’t there. But while the trees stayed stalwart and green, many of their smaller cousins have succumbed to the heat, quickly seeding out and turning dry and skeletal. Only the airy white tufts of Queen Anne’s Lace and the sturdy blue spikes of wild chicory seem immune to their situation.

This morning everything was different. The sun shone merrily among puffy white clouds and everything already looked greener. The world is moist and cool. I could almost see the new green shoots of grass spring up from bleached clumps. Stalks and branches that looked brittle and dead have become supple and alive once more. Water is indeed a wonderful element, capable of performing near miracles.

Volunteers are a lot like water in a non-profit organization.

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Personally Speaking

This past weekend I volunteered to play guitar as a part of the Earth Day activities at Oracle State Park, where my wife, Nanette, volunteers on a regular basis.  The park is about to close for the summer, since the state is not providing funds any more, but a group has formed, called Friends of Oracle State Park, to coordinate volunteer efforts and raise monies to keep up the trails and structures and all that's required even for a small (4,000 acres) park.  I was happy to spend an hour doing something I love to help folks maintain what they (and my wife) love, and it's something I'd readily do again.  I must admit that, for someone who works almost solely with non-profits, I don't give of my time as much as some others, but, then again, I'm rarely asked.  This little glimpse of myself is offered in order to illustrate some uses for FundRaiser, of course.

From the little personal information in the previous paragraph, one could reasonably assign several category codes to my name record in their FundRaiser database.  Remember that category codes are used, for the most part, as non-gift-related aspects of a person's life.  This means that codes with descriptions such as "guitar player", or "music interest", or others, might be created and assigned, in order to have the ability at a later date to pull names of people with similar interests.  And, although it doesn't mean that I'll play at your event if asked, it does mean that you'll have the facts you need to pull a list of people you want to ask to volunteer services or talents when the time comes.

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Cleaning up after the 'other tornado'

Sasha with chainsaw at Dhammasukha

On May 25, a few days after the tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, another set of tornados passed by my house in eastern Missouri. The storms moved north, touching down briefly in a few places. No one was killed, but where tornados touched down, they caused significant damage. One of the places hard hit was Dhammasukha Meditation Center in Annapolis, Missouri. I know the residents there (who are also FundRaiser users) and so I was happy to pack up my chain saw and go help them clean up last weekend.

Dhammasukha Center has two sections of buildings. The upper section was untouched by the tornado, but in the lower section nearly every building was destroyed. The only structures left untouched were the two with people in them, and even these had the shingles stripped from the roof. One of the women was sucked out of her door and thrown onto the porch of the neighboring building. There, she was able to grab a hold of the front door by her fingers and drag herself in. She and another woman hunkered down in a corner and rode the storm out, while trees fell on all sides and the other buildings were destroyed. Although the noise must have been intense, they both said they had the sense of absolute stillness and peace.

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Volunteering in Joplin - My Impressions

On Wednesday (June 1, 2011) FundRaiser sent a carload of volunteers to help with the disaster relief in Joplin, which is just 3 hours from here.  I was one of them.  These are my impressions…

We worked with a crew of about 20 from one of several disaster relief centers (I would estimate that there were about 200 volunteers just at this one, which was coordinated by the Baptist convention).  We were working on the outskirts of the worst of the damage – where there were still houses standing.  The houses might have lost parts of a roof, or had part of the house caved in, siding blown off, windows blown in, etc, but they were habitable and the occupants were there.

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Wait a minute, while we are rendering the calendar
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